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How Do I Become a Biological Anthropologist?

One field of biological anthropology, also known as physical anthropology, is the study of humans.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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Choosing to become a biological anthropologist is a momentous decision that can lead to a fascinating and interesting anthropological career. Biological anthropology, also known as physical anthropology, is the study of modern humans, human ancestry, and other species of primates, such as apes and lemurs. In order to become a biological anthropologist, a person will need to get sufficient education, choose an area of specialization, and attempt to find a solid career path in this extensive field.

College education is one of the most important steps needed to become a biological anthropologist. Studies can begin at the undergraduate level, as many universities and distance learning programs offer a major in general anthropology. While some entry-level jobs may be available to those who have completed an undergraduate degree, opportunities for career growth are much more prevalent for those who possess a master's degree or doctorate in physical anthropology. Students may take anywhere from six to ten years to complete a full anthropological program, including both undergraduate and post-graduate studies.

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While in school, students may find themselves naturally drawn toward a specific area of biological anthropology. In addition to traditional anthropology courses, there is also a great opportunity for cross-training in related fields, such as genetics, natural history, forensics, zoology, and animal biology. Depending on the school, students may be able to tailor their degree programs to include extensive training in a related field. Choosing a specialization can help a person become a biological anthropologist with the skills needed to find a job in a specific field of interest.

In addition to taking courses, students may also want to broaden their education by taking opportunities for volunteer or internship positions. These jobs may be available during the school year or over school breaks, and can be a great way to start making contacts and learning about the professional world. Internships and volunteer jobs may include exciting tasks, such as traveling to a research site to assist with excavation or analysis, or helping with population and behavioral studies among primates. Laboratory research jobs are also a good place for students to gain experience with the practical world of anthropological science.

The final step needed to become a biological anthropologist is finding employment after school is completed. There are many different career paths to choose from, including public health or military jobs, zoology jobs that involve work with primates, and field research positions. Some anthropologists prefer to stay in the academic world and may become professors at universities. Academic positions usually include access to campus research facilities and staff, which allows many professionals the opportunity to pursue research projects while maintaining a steady job.

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